|Sheffield Declaration (1773)|
|The Sheffield Declaration, also known as the Sheffield Resolves, was a Colonial American petition against British tyranny and manifesto for individual rights, drawn up as a series of resolves approved by the Town of Sheffield, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1773 and printed in The Massachusetts Spy, Or, Thomas’s Boston Journal on February 18, 1773. It is said that the meeting took place in the Colonel John Ashley House.|
Saturday, February 13.
At a meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the Town of SHEFFIELD, legally warned and assembled, at the meeting-house, on the 5th day of January, 1773.
Colonel John Ashley, chosen moderator.
VOTED, To chuse a committee to consist of eleven person, to take into consideration the grievances which Americans in general, and the inhabitants of this province in particular, labour under; and to make a draught of such proceedings as they think are necessary for this town, in these critical circumstances, to enter into – The following persons were for that purpose nominated and chosen, viz. Mr. Theodore Sedgwick, Deacon Silas Kellog, Col. Ashley, Doctor Lemuel Bernard, Mr. Aaron Root, Major John Fellows, Mr. Philip Callender, Capt. William Day, Deacon Ebenezer Smith, Capt. Nathaniel Austin, and Capt. Stephen Dewey; then voted, that this meeting be adjourned to the 12th day of January current.
At a meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Sheffield, by adjournment, at the meeting-house, on the 12th day of January, 1773. Ordered, That the committee appointed by this meeting on the 5th day of January current, make report of the doings of said committee; whereupon the chairman of said committee made report as follows, viz.
THE committee of this town, appointed to take into consideration the grievances, which Americans in general, and the inhabitants of this province in particular, labour under, and to make a draught of such proceedings, as they think are necessary for this town, in the critical circumstances to enter into, report as follows, viz.
That this town taking into their serious consideration, and deeply lamenting the unhappy situation, to which Americans in general, and his Majesty’s most faithful subjects the inhabitants of this province in particular, are reduced, owing to the jealous eye with which America hath been viewed by several British administrations since the accession of his present most gracious majesty to the throne, and viewing with the deepest sorrow the design of Great Britain, (which is but too apparent to every virtuous lover of his country) gradually to deprive us of those invaluable rights and privileges, which were transmitted to us by our worthy and independent ancestors, at the most laborious and dangerous expence; should esteem ourselves greatly wanting in the duty we own ourselves, our country and posterity, called upon as we are by our brethren, the respectable town of Boston, should we neglect with the utmost firmness and freedom, to express the sense we have of our present dangerous situation, always professing, as with truth we do, the most inviolable regard and attachment, to our most gracious sovereign, and the protestant succession as by law established, we have, with that deference and respect due to the country on which we are and always hope to be dependent, entered into the following votes and resolves, viz.
RESOLVED, That mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property.
Resolved, That the great end of political society is to secure in a more effectual manner those rights and privileges wherewith God and nature have made us free. Resolved, That it hath a tendency to subvert the good end for which society was instituted, to have in any part of the legislative body an interest separate from and independent of the interest of the people in general.
Resolved, That affixing a stipend to the office of the Governor of this province, to be paid by money taken from the people without their consent, creates in him an interest seperate [sic] from and independent of, the interest of the people in general.
Resolved, That the peaceful enjoyment of any privileges, to the people of this province, in a great measure (under God) depends upon the uprightness and independency of the executive officers in general, and of the Judges of the Superior Court in particular.
Resolved, That if salaries are affixed to the offices of the Judges of the Superior Court, rendering them independent of the people and dependant of the crown for their support; (which we have too much reason to think is the case) it is a precedent that may hereafter, considering the depravity of human nature, be improved to purposes, (illegible text) with the most obvious and fatal consequences, to the good people of this province.
Resolved, That Americans in general, (and his Majesty’s subjects the inhabitants of this province in particular, by their charter) are intitledto all the liberties, privileges and immunities of natural born British subjects.
Resolved, That is a well known and undoubted privilege, of the British constitution, that every subject, hath not only a right to the free and uncontrouled [sic] enjoyment, use and improvement, of this estate or property so long as he shall continue in possession of it, but that he shall not in any manner be deprived thereof, in the whole or in part, until his consent, given by himself or his representative, hath been previously, for that purpose, expressly obtained.
Resolved, That the late acts of the parliament of Great Britain, for the express purpose of raising and regulating the collecting a revenue in the colonies, are unconstitutional, as thereby the just earnings of our labour and industry, without any regard to our consent, are by mere power ravished from us, and the unlimited power by said acts (and commissions) put into the hands of ministerial hirelings, and the deprivation of our inestimable and constitutional privilege, a trial by jury, the determination of our property by a single judge paid by one part, by money illegally taken from the other for that purpose, and the insulting difference made between British and American subjects are matters truly grievous, and clearly evince a disposition to rule us with the iron rod of power.
Resolved, That the introduction, of civil officers, unknown in the charter of this province, with powers which render the property, domestic security and enjoyment of the inhabitants, altogether insecure, is a very great grievance.
Resolved, That it is the right of every subject of Great Britain, to be tried by the power of the vicinity, when charged with any crime, that any act of the parliament of Great Britain, for destroying this privilege and tearing away subjects from their connections, friends, business and the possibility of evincing their innocence, and carrying them on bear [sic] suspicion, to the distance of thousands of miles, for a trial, is an intolerable grievance.
Resolved, That the Great and General Court of his province, have it not in their power in consequence of instructions from the ministry only, to exempt any man or body of men residing within and receiving protection from the laws of this province, from contributing their equal proportion towards the support of government within the same, nor can any such instructions or orders from the ministry of Great Britain justify such proceedings, should this be the case, it will follow of consequence, that the whole province tax may be laid on one or more persons as shall best suit with the caprice of the ministry.
Resolved, That any determination or adjudication of the King in Council, with regard to the limits of provinces in America, whereby private property is or may be affected, is a great grievance already very severely felt by great numbers, who after purchasing lands of the only persons, whom they could suppose had any right to convey, have on a sudden, by such an adjudications, been deprived of their whole property, and from a state of affluence reduced to a state of beggary.
Resolved, That the Great and General Court of this province only, can constitutionally make any laws or regulations, obligatory upon the inhabitants thereof residing within the same.
Voted, That the Town Clerk duly record the proceedings of this Meeting, and make a true and attested copy thereof as soon as may be, and forward the same to DAVID INGERSOL, jun. Esq; the Representative of this town, at the Great and General Court at Boston, who is hereby requested to consider the above resolves as the sense of his constituents, the town of Sheffield, and to use every constitutional means in his power that the grievances complained of may be redressed; and whereas the province of New-York, by the most unjustifiable proceedings, have by a late act of their General Assembly, extended the limits of the county of Albany, east as far as Connecticut River, and under pretence of having by that act, the legal jurisdiction within that part of this province, by said act included within the county of Albany, have exercised actual jurisdiction, and the officers of the county of Albany, without the least pretence of any precept from the authority on this side the line, by colour of a warrant executed in that county, upon suspicion that a man had been guilty of a crime in this county, taken him and conveyed him to Albany for examination. In indictments crimes have been said to have been committed at Sheffield in the county of Albany. Mr. Ingersoll, is hereby requested to use his utmost influence, that the alarming consequences, from such proceedings dreaded, may be prevented, and that the fears of the people may be quieted by a speedy determination of that unhappy consequence. And whereas it has been reported that the support given by the Great and General Court, to the Judges of the Superior Court, hath been inadequate to the services performed, Mr. Ingersol is hereby requested that (if this report shall appear to be founded in truth) he use his influence, that their salaries may be augmented to such sums, as shall be sufficient to support the dignity of the office.
THEODORE SEDGWICK, per order.
Which being twice read distinctly it was put to vote paragraph by paragraph, whether the town would accept of said report? It passed in the affirmative nemine contradicente.
A true copy,
Attest. STEPHEN DEWEY, Town Clerk
Note: The "Sheffield Declaration" was a series of resolves approved by the Town of Sheffield, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1773. This document is a transcript of the declaration as printed in The Massachusetts Spy, Or, Thomas’s Boston Journal (February 18, 1773).